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Re: OT: Syllabic Stress in English

Again, all these words (contract, extract, digest, insult, &c.) are loans from Latin, sometimes by way of French. Bronstein's on the money, but these stress splits can be traced to a partial or ongoing assimilation of non-native vocabulary. The core vocabulary of English has remarkably consistent stress rules.

B. also has a good point about suprasegmental phonemes, though I'd say that in English, pitch is _semantic_ rather than phonemic. There is no pair of English words that can be distinguished solely on the basis of stress, as there is in Oklahoman dialects of Cherokee.

Even where stress and pitch ARE phonemic, they are seldom and inconsistently marked in most writing systems. A guess: the more familiar the language of the VMS was to its author, the LESS likely that stress and tone will be denoted, even if phonemic. (Stress and tone indicators in writing systems have often been innovated after the fact by scribes whose own language did not make such distinctions, or were losing them).

-Scott Hersey

On Wed, 24 Jan 2001 05:36:43   Dennis wrote:
>    I found a book which explains syllabic stress in
>    *The Pronunciation of American English* by Arthur
>J. Bronstein 
>[just like Trotsky :-) ] .  (New York,
>Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960).
>    He notes that there are three supersegmental
>phonemes in English: 
>stress, pitch, and juncture (pauses).  
>    His discussion makes it clear that there are no
>hard and fast 
>rules for these and that they all affect each other. 
>There are, 
>however, useful generalizations.   On p.256 he
>summarizes these for 
>syllabic stress.
>    "In general, then, (1) stress shifts may result
>from the desire to 
>intensify the contrast in similar words; (2) in most
>disyllabic words 
>which may function as nouns, or adjectives, and verbs
>the stress 
>shifts from the first syllable of the adjective or noun
>to the second 
>in the verb: csntract, ixtract, dmgest, mnsult,
>csnvict, prsject, 
>csncert, szrvey, and mncrease are nouns, while
>contract, extract, 
>digist, inszlt, convmct, projict, concirt, surviy, and
>incriase are 
>verbs; (3) in other polysyllabic words, we tend to omit
>the secondary 
>accent for the nouns or adjectives, retaining them for
>istimate, csmpliment, srnament, and delmberate are
>nouns or 
>adjectives, while istim`te, csmplimhnt, srnamhnt, and
>delmber`te are 
>verbs (note well that some American speakers make no
>between the noun and verb forms of compliment and
>ornament); (4) 
>stress shifts in certain words may be an indication of
>individual or 
>regional preference; (5) stress shifts may result from
>the presence or 
>absence of stress in neighboring words; (6) stresses
>differently in special grammatical constructions, or as
>impressions or desires of the speaker necessitate his
>making such 
>    Pitch is a more complicated matter; the only
>useful, simple 
>generalization I see is "... stressed utterances are
>normally spoken 
>at higher pitch levels than are lesser-stress or
>syllables..." (p.262).  
>    Juncture, both with stress and pitch, is also a
>more complicated 
>matter, so I won't discuss it.  
>    I remembered that Frederick Newmeyer said somewhere
>in *History of 
>American Linguistics* that syllabic stress in English
>is in fact 
>predictable.  What he must have meant is that if you
>know from context 
>whether a word is a noun/adjective or a verb, you know
>where the 
>stress goes.  In "I project higher sales in the next
>"project" is clearly a verb and should be pronounced
>"projict".  In 
>"This is a very large project", "project" is clearly a
>noun and should 
>be pronounced "prsject".  
>	Learning a little bit about Cherokee made me think
>about this.  Cherokee must have a phonemic syllable
>stress as English does, and a pitch accent system that
>is meaningful in the same general way as the English

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